Becoming a solicitor in England and Wales requires a combination of academic qualifications, passing qualifying exams and gaining qualified work experience. The profession is regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, and the process of becoming a solicitor typically takes several years to complete. To become a solicitor via the newly implemented SQE route, you will need to follow these specific steps:
Obtain a bachelor's degree: To be eligible to take the SQE, you must have a bachelor's degree or work experience equivalent to a UK degree. The degree can be in any subject and there is no specific subject requirement.
Pass SQE1: Once you have obtained a degree or equivalent qualification, you must pass the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). SQE1 consists of two multiple-choice tests, each lasting 180 minutes. It tests candidates' functioning legal knowledge, covering topics such as contract law, tort law, criminal law, property law, constitutional law, retained EU law, professional conduct and ethics, wills and probate, trusts, and company law.
Pass SQE2: After passing SQE1, you are eligible for taking SQE2, which consists of two separate assessments. The first assessment is a client interviewing and attendance note-taking exercise. Candidates are given a scenario involving a client and must conduct a simulated client interview, taking detailed and accurate notes on the client's instructions and objectives. The second assessment is a written and oral advocacy exercise. Candidates are given a scenario involving a legal problem and must prepare a written document such as a letter, email, or advice note, and then present their advice orally to a simulated client or colleague.
Obtain QWE: You must complete a period of two years of qualifying work experience (QWE). This can be completed before, during or after taking the SQE. The QWE must be completed in at least two competency areas of legal practice and must be supervised by a solicitor or qualified legal officer such as Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP). The QWE can be completed in a maximum of 4 organisations.
Apply for admission: Once you have passed the SQE and completed the two years of QWE, you can apply for admission to the roll of solicitors. You must demonstrate that you have met the SRA's character and suitability requirements, and you must also provide evidence of your completion of the SQE and QWE.
It is worth noting that the SQE is a relatively new qualification route, and some aspects of the qualification process may change as it is implemented. You should always check the SRA website for the latest information and guidance on the SQE route to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales.